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June 2010

DOING THE MATH OF JURY RANKING SYSTEMS? - the numbers never lie.

Curtain blue
There are many different ranking systems that jurors can use to score work for selection during a jury system.

A ranking system for a single juror can be as simple as
YES, NO, or MAYBE.  Yesnomaybe

When more than one juror is involved or there's a large number of entries, a numerical ranking system is the most efficient way to select the best works. 

The Professional Guidelines recommend a ranking system of 1 – 7  (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), as the most practical and useful ranking system for the judging process and effectively differentiates results.

Jurors should consider “1” as the lowest score and  “7” as the highest score in the ranking system.  Jurors should be encouraged to use the full range of the 1-7 ranking system when evaluating the images (or work) submitted for the jurying.

Unfortunately, some people may suggest a scoring system that removes the middle number from a 1 – 5 system (e.g. eliminating the “3”) and uses only 1, 2, 4, 5 to supposedly “force” a selection outside of average. I took note in the previous post that the jurors in that experience were advised to use numbers 1-5 to score work and to avoid, if possible, the number 3.  Jurors tend to use the middle range of numbers when scoring work because each piece viewed is rarely the best or worst that the juror has ever seen, i.e.close to "average". )

However, a scoring system that removes the middle number (e.g. eliminating the “3” from a 1-5 system and using only 1, 2, 4, 5) actually increases the likelihood of ties (regardless of the number of jurors).   Mathematically, there is no difference between 1, 2, 3, 4 and 1, 2, 4, 5 since the number of sums (outcomes) is identical.  Using fewer score choices simply increases the possibility of ties. 

In other words, by eliminating a scoring choice, there are fewer possible total scores. Balanced scale bar

Honestly, I am not really a math person, but I live with two super math people. My husband and my son! They have exposed me to more math than I really care to know and helped prepare the Comparison of Jury Ranking Systems in the Professional Guidelines.

This document is only on my website! If you want to read the explanation of the math behind jury ranking systems, please read the whole document. If you need help understanding the document ask a math person....but start using 1-7 to review all jury situations. Numbers don't lie.

No matter what ranking system is used, the jurors should be encouraged to use the full range of numbers to rank the images.

Tell everyone you know!!!!!

Every artist can be an instrument of change. Make sure that every organization that you know adopts 1-7 as a jury ranking system.

Please consider sharing your experiences and comments about jury ranking systems.


P.S. Tomorrow's post from Guest Author Alison Antelman will offer advice about how to improve your chances of being accepted in a jury situation.

This post was updated on January 19, 2022.




How the Jury Chooses Work - Peak Behind the Curtain of a Juried Selection

In today's post, Alison Antelman, President of the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild offers some insight into her experience as a recent juror at Sun Valley Center for the Arts (now Sun Valley Museum of Art) in Sun Valley, Idaho. This first post describes the jury review process, Wednesday's post describes the math behind jury ranking systems by Harriete. Thursday's post by Alison itemizes how an artist can improve their chances of being selected in a competitive environment. She says, "I want the message to come across that, while we throw our applications out there and hope for the best, following obvious guidelines and structure will increase our chances of being in the pool that is selected---because it's very easy to rule applicants out."

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Alison Antelman, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.


Over 700 applicants sent five images of their work and one booth shot through the Zapplication digital online jury process for a national juried show, Sun Valley Museum of Art in its 42nd year. Digital projectors illuminated six images on a large screen in the front of the room. We also had our own Macbooks for viewing the same images and voting.

On the first day, we viewed all of the images by category; ceramics, paintings, mixed media, textiles, etc. Then in the second round of viewing, we looked at the projected images on the screen and voted on our computers (our computers also had smaller images of exactly what we saw on the screen).

We scored between 1 and 5, with 5 being the highest, and were told to try to have a strong opinion instead of giving every artist scores of 3. There were no names associated with the images, just categories. In addition, a 100 character artist statement was read aloud to us. We were allowed to ask questions or pause before going to the next image.

As a metalsmith, I ended up describing certain metalsmithing techniques to the other jurors such as forging and repousse'. Other jurors were able to describe the difference between several types of printmaking like monoprints and reductive woodblock printing. We got through the entire lineup on the first day and the scoring tally was left for the art center staff, who worked on it through the evening.

The second day was for eliminations and balancing out the show. The art center staff scored each entry with a break-off point for each category. For example, in ceramics the break-off score may have been 21, so all those entries scoring under this total did not get in. Entries above 21 were still in the "running" at that point.

We went through by category again to look at all of the accepted artists. Then with the next break-off point of scores, we went through the waiting list and could add an applicant to the accepted pile.

BalancedsJURY Once again by category, we discussed those in question in order to eliminate a few more entrants. With the idea of a well-balanced show, we tried to eliminate work that was similar to already accepted work. For example, between four artists who paint landscapes with diffused light, we would go back and forth. Their statements were read aloud and we would look more closely at booth shots. We asked ourselves, " Are the jury slides representative of what is shown in the booth? Is the work truly hand-crafted or are they buying parts? At the end of this grueling period, we ended up with our accepted list of artists and those on the waitlist.

I’ve always wondered…do the jurors really see all of those images? How can one person view 700, 1000, 2500 entries? I am confident that I saw all images many times. Some of the artwork really stuck with me. We were given breaks and healthy food.  We stopped if a juror had to use the restroom, so no one was left behind. Given the number of applicants, the best you can do is take the time to honor the applications, with the care, critique, and professionalism that you'd give in a job interview.

Alison B. Antelman

Thank you, Alison, this has been very insightful. The next post from Alison Antelman on Thursday may improve the artist's chances in a juried situation. In addition, I want to recommend reading the TOP TEN TIPS for Getting Into a Juried Exhibition, Show, Book, or Magazine in the Professional Guidelines.  The document Exhibitions: Artist Checklist and Juried Exhibitions, Exhibition Contract may also be helpful in deciding whether you apply to a show.

If you are interested in learning more about numerical ranking systems to review images, read the document Comparison of Jury Ranking Systems on my website. There are many different ranking systems that jurors can use to select work.

When there is more than one juror and/or a large number of entries, a numerical ranking system can be an efficient way to select the best works.  The recommended system is to use numbers 1-7. Jurors should consider “1” as the lowest score and “7” as the highest score in the ranking system.  Jurors should be encouraged to use the full range of the 1-7 ranking system when evaluating the entries (or work) submitted for review.

Read the entire document to learn the impact of using 1-5 to review work. The answer may be shocking!!!! 

Occasionally someone suggests removing the middle number from a 1 – 5 system (e.g. eliminating the “3”) and to use only 1, 2, 4, 5 to “force” a selection outside of average (as suggested above).  However, using fewer score choices actually increases the possibility of ties (regardless of the number of jurors).   Mathematically, there is no difference between 1, 2, 3, 4 and 1, 2, 4, 5 since the number of possible sums (or outcomes) is identical. 

Most artist types (I include myself among this group) do not embrace math sufficiently to fully understand the impact of various numerical ranking systems such as 1-5; 1,2,4,5; or 1-7.  I had a lot of help in creating the Comparison of Jury Ranking System in an effort to inform the arts community.  I will talk about this more tomorrow.

This post was updated on January 18, 2022, to provide current links.

TURN ON YOUR SCAM RADAR - Protect Your Work and Your Livelihood

After the recent series of posts about Good Galleries Gone Bad, a couple of artists/makers sent comments about how they had been contacted by galleries mentioned in the posts but had turned down the overtures to be represented and sell their work. I wondered how these artists knew how to TURN ON their scam radar.

I asked Kerin Rose to elaborate on why her scam radar was on alert. She said,

"I think that Victoria Lansford spelled it out exactly....for starters, the gallery was unproven...brand new shop, no track record whatsoever.  Also, very pushy sort of sales pitch...I hope this doesn’t sound weird, but when retailers approach me with consignment offers like they are offering me the opportunity of a lifetime, I become wary....(I don’t like consignment at all, on principle), but antennae always go up when people act like they are doing me this great favor.

More specifically the guy’s terms...if I recall, was a 70/30 split (who does that these days?) and he said he would have your name/ website/ labels and all collateral laid out in the gallery. So to me, offering to direct customers away from the shop seemed odd. Victoria said it seemed 'too good to be true' and I all of that rolled together and my own sort of negative feelings around consignment.  I blew him off.

I also checked his site again after he got up and running, and he had this weird mix of manufactured (John Hardy, David Yurman) and beaded stuff too. The pieces just did not fit together at it was a gut reaction and a logic thing. And to top it off, again, no track record. At the very least, dealing with someone who is established is important. I have never ever done start-ups. I wait till someone has been in business a year, and then you can approach them if it's something you want to do!"

Radar1 Thank you, Kerin.  Now let's examine how to raise YOUR scam radar when approached by a gallery and steps to take before sending your work. 

1. Look at the website. Does it look real? That sounds odd perhaps, but one time, I was contacted by a gallery that had a very substantial, multiple-page website.  It looked very convincing, but my Scam Rader was turned on! Who knows where they found the images of the artwork and the gallery installation shots, but within an hour of research, it was very apparent that this gallery was not what they professed to be.  Doing a Google search for the artists listed on the website revealed that they were made-up names - this was a scam.   Radar-dish_Antenna

2. Is the offer too good to be true? Legitimate inquiries about representing your work at a gallery or invitation to a show start out slowly. Multiple levels of discussion by both parties, including a review of the contract, give everyone time to get to know one another. Scam Radar should tell you that something isn't right when a gallery approaches you about representing your work and presses for an immediate commitment. 

If a new gallery contacts you, ask for references. This could be from other artists, curators, or businesses where they have an account. Take a few days or weeks to let the relationship develop before sending your work.

Radar2 3. The same level of scrutiny goes when people want to buy your work unusually quickly without the usual careful inquiry or review. Bells and whistles should be going off in your head when this happens. On occasion, I have received emails from someone wanting to buy my work off my website. Usually, the only difference on the surface between the scam offer and the real offer is a tingling on my Scam Radar.

At this point, I answer sincerely and directly, but add that all payments must be paid in full before shipping if they want to buy my work, PayPal is preferred, checks need to be deposited and cleared before shipping (if I don't know the person) and "Please, no scams." That is usually the end of all scam purchase inquiries.

Radar3 4. Work with your local bank. One time, a person even sent a check to purchase work, but my scam radar was on. Something wasn't right even though it looked just like a normal check. I took the check to my bank and asked them to look up the buyer's bank and the account. My bank performed this service quite willingly. My bank was just as interested in avoiding a bad check. Within a day, my bank informed me that it was a bogus check. [Unfortunately, the police won't follow up on fake checks unless you lost money.]

Radar4 copy 5. TURN ON YOUR SCAM RADAR in new situations.  One time I won an award from a competition. Unfortunately, the award was coming from a London bank and they wanted to deposit the money directly into my account. Very scary indeed, Scam Radar is ON. This time I went to the bank, told them that the competition seemed legitimate, but I wanted to be very cautious.  To solve the problem, the bank opened a new account. It took almost a week for this to be arranged but for peace of mind, it was truly worth the effort. I left only $20 in the account in case this was a scam.... only then, did I email them the account number for the transfer. Everything worked out fine, thank goodness.

The point is that there is always a careful solution. If life and business are offering you a real opportunity, the gallery or store will be there for months and years to come. There is no need to jump into a new opportunity without checking your scam radar as your first line of defense.  


This post was updated on January 18, 2022.
Green Blue Starbucks Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman is jewelry constructed from recycled materials.
One of a kind Green, Blue, White June Flower with  Orange Flower Center
Constructed from layers of recycled tin cans by Harriete Estel Berman.
This Flower pin has a great dramatic appearance but is the size of a real
flower at  3  11/16” Diameter 

Green Blue Starbucks Flower Pin by Harriete Estel Berman is jewelry constructed from recycled materials.

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Artists Need to Be A Voice for Change.

For the past two weeks, ASK Harriete featured a series of posts about galleries that did not pay the artists for work that was sold. These posts were only possible because Victoria Lansford was brave enough to speak about her experiences and be a voice for change.

Collect Your Money © 2010
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver, pin
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

In the past, many people have told me about their problems with either late payment or no payment, but only a few have been brave enough to publicly discuss the problem. While a late payment or delinquent payment is not a new problem, I wonder why so few people are willing to address these issues publicly. I asked Victoria if she thinks people are afraid of repercussions or think that galleries won't want to work with them if they go public about delinquent payment issues.

Victoria Lansford said, "...from my experience, peoples' fears are probably unwarranted.  I've had lots of feedback from people emailing me about other matters and praising the posts.  Artwork sales have suddenly picked back up again since the crash of 2008, so no problem there.  Galleries with which I have regular contact have either said something positive, "so sorry you've been through that," or nothing at all. 

Today I received a call from a supplier who wants to carry my publications and tools.  The owner said he Google-ed me to check out my reputation, and very quickly found the blog ASK Harriete.  We had a nice discussion about the challenges of operating an art business.  I certainly haven't been blackballed as some kind of trouble maker, and if there are businesses out there that think that, they're probably ones that I never want to deal with anyway!

Thanks again for the opportunity to speak out in the best venue to be heard and make a difference!


Chasing Payment Over the Phone
© 2010 Harriete Estel Berman
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets,
sterling silver chasing hammer.

As I said, problems with delinquent payment are not a new issue, but the weak economy is making the problem worse. Many comments to this series (on Delinquent Payment Issues and the previous series with Boris Bally) wonder why there isn't a Better Business Bureau/service/review website for evaluating galleries.

Yes, that would be great, if you have ideas on how to make this happen, let's hear it, but for the most part, it is a huge project requiring validation of the facts and liability issues. While my dream would be for something like this to come to fruition, change will not come from enforcement or an official website.

Megaphonegr The first level of responsibility is for artists to speak up about the problem.  The change will come with visibility and discussion. It doesn't have to be on ASK Harriete. It can be on your own blog, your own website, or a social networking site like Facebook or Crafthaus.

Why are artists so unwilling to speak up?  It is simply the natural discomfort that keeps this issue hidden out of view.  I am fairly certain that a collector/purchaser who bought your work would be appalled if they learned that the artist had not been paid.  It is certainly not your fault and nothing to be ashamed of. 

Generating public awareness about this issue is the only way the current state of affairs will change.  It really doesn’t matter if the gallery did this on purpose or simply “forgot” to pay you. If you have spoken to them about late payment, and the check is not in your bank account, it is a problem. What about the galleries that don’t keep accurate inventory?  This is their business. This is why they are paid the other 50% on each purchase.

If a gallery or store can justify its position about this issue, I want to hear it. So do the artists they represent.

Dollargr If a gallery is having problems with their cash flow, then they need a loan from their bank. Artists are not banks. Sold work means the artist must be paid in a timely manner.

What can artists do?
Tell your friends and fellow artists if you are having a problem. Contact the other artists represented by the gallery. See if they are having similar problems.
What are you afraid of?
Are you afraid that if you complain they will never sell your work at that gallery/store again? Why do you want to leave your work at a business that does not treat your business relationship responsibly? Why do you leave your work at a gallery/store that is having obvious financial difficulties? Time to remove your work, politely and professionally, and move on. A change in our behavior also means that the “bad galleries” will either go out of business or change.

Pricered-tags Are you afraid that if you go public with delinquent payment issues that new galleries will not take your work?
Good galleries have nothing to fear, they have no concern.
Good galleries pay on time and keep accurate inventory records, they are not a party to any delinquent payment issue. Good galleries should be applauded for this standard of professionalism. This should be the norm.

I think that this issue surrounding delinquent payments in the arts community is similar to every other political issue that ever needed changing… whether it was segregation,  spousal abuse, gay rights, and others. The point isn’t to compare whether those issues are more serious or less important. The issue is that until artists are willing to speak openly about the topic, nothing will change.

If the “bad galleries” go out of business, it just means more business for the good galleries that respect artists, pay promptly, and keep accurate inventory records.  

LifeSavers Earrings are one of a kind earrings available for purchase.
   LifeSaveer Earrings © 2008
   Recycled Tin Cans, sterling silver posts
   Artist: Harriete Estel Berman 

It is time for change…not only is it time for a change, but the internet can also make this discussion public. The voice of the artists needs to be a voice for change.


This post was updated on January 18, 2022.

Help! My work’s been sold and I’m not being paid! What do I do? - a lawyer's answer

This post on ASK Harriete is by Chris Balch, a lawyer and arts advocate in Georgia. Familiar with the non-payment issues mentioned in the previous five posts on ASK Harriete. Mr. Balch offers his lawyer's perspective on what to do if a gallery is not paying you for your work.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Chris Balch in this post are his and his alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASK Harriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.  

Portrait of Chris Balch lawyer FROM THE LEGAL PEN OF Chris Balch: The short answer--sue them.  Your consignment contract provides a remedy for when it is breached or broken.  In general, most states allow the wronged party (that’s you) to recover damages associated with what the contract allows.  Things such as your wholesale price for the work, your lost profits (which may be the same thing), or other provable losses may be recoverable.  In addition, if the contract provides (or in some cases, the law of the state may allow) you may be able to recover any attorney’s fees associated with the breach of your agreement.

Chris Balch_chris_logo Usually, you will not be able to recover damages for any mental pain and suffering associated with the loss of the work, the dispute with the gallery, or worry about how you will be able to pay your mortgage this month.  Those types of damages are generally recoverable only in non-contract actions.

But where (not as in what court but where geographically) do you sue the gallery and perhaps the gallery owner?  That’s the hard part.  Usually, there are at least two choices, i.e., the state and county where you (the artist) live or the state and county where the gallery is located.  However, other factors may limit that choice to only one--where the gallery owner is located.

The due process clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution (which applies to the states) requires a defendant in a lawsuit to have at least minimal contact with the state where they are being sued.  That is easy to satisfy when you sue someone where they live and do business.  They have voluntarily elected to take advantage of the benefits of living and working in the state and thus it is no burden at all that the courts of that state may call them into court. 

It gets a bit trickier when you try to sue someone in another state.  This is best explained by way of example.  Suppose for a moment you are an artist in South Carolina and a gallery in Tennessee contacts you to represent your work.  After getting a contract and sending them work you discover they have sold your work but not paid you.  Can you sue them in South Carolina where you live and where it is more convenient and easier on you?  You can but it may not mean much in the long run.

State line Map After you get your judgment you have to collect the money.  This can be a very challenging step.  If your judgment is in the same state where the gallery and the owner(s) lives and works, then what is required is getting the right documents from the Court. The Sheriff of the county will go out and seize property owned by the defendants equal to the amount owed to you in the judgment of the Court.  You may also be able to garnish bank accounts to collect your judgment.

When your judgment is from another state than the one where the gallery is located you have an additional step.  You have to get a court in the state where the gallery is located to recognize your judgment from another state as a judgment of the state where you are trying to collect your money.  It sounds more confusing than it is but there is a hitch: the gallery and its owner now get to contest the judgment you obtained in your state (even if they did not bother to defend the case when filed) and argue that the state’s assertion of authority over them violated the due process clause of the Constitution. 

Rb-inyo-court-house-5 It is your burden to prove that the people who owe you money had sufficient purposeful contacts with your home state that there is no Constitutional violation in collecting the judgment you obtained against them where you live.  The question is answered by looking at the law of the state where you obtained your judgment.  Thus, the Tennessee Court would have to look to and interpret South Carolina law to establish whether the judgment was valid or not.  If you have a lot of emails, telephone calls, and other electronic communications with the gallery or its employees, (don't forget to keep accurate and detailed records of your communication) there are some states which will conclude those are sufficient minimum contacts to satisfy the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice required by the Due Process Clause. 

This is not an easy area of the law to navigate.  Even seasoned and experienced trial attorneys will likely need to revisit the rules to provide accurate advice about where the best place to sue may be.

Disclaimer: The content of this post is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Mr. Balch.  It may be considered lawyer advertising in some jurisdictions.  Hiring a lawyer is an important decision that should not be made solely based on advertising.  Mr. Balch is not certified in any specialty by any state.

Blog ASK Harriete offers professional advice to the arts and crafts community. FROM THE PEN OF ASK Harriete: Please keep in mind that suing is your last resort AFTER you have tried to contact the gallery, picked up all your work at the gallery, and tried to arrange payment without legal action. There are several "lawyers for the arts" organizations in the United States that may offer you help or guidance at no cost or a reduced fee.

Stay tuned for Victoria's update on her lawsuit next week.


P.S. Did you miss the previous five posts?

Previous posts in this series include:

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Victoria Lansford,

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Jen Townsend

Good Galleries Gone Bad - The Saga Continues...Time to Sue - from Victoria Lansford

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You! Prevent Delinquent Payments

Good Galleries Gone Bad - 6 Steps to Take if Your Gallery is Not Paying You on Time by Victoria Lansford

This post was updated on January, 18, 2022.

Good Galleries Gone Bad - 6 Steps to Take if Your Gallery is Not Paying You on Time by Victoria Lansford

In today's post Victoria Lansford offers us six steps to take if your gallery is not paying on time. With this tough economy, early intervention may prevent work from disappearing and the additional loss of potential revenue. We need to work together with artists, galleries, and the entire arts community. Let's not let a few bad apples influence the entire marketplace. 

Previous posts in this series include:

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Victoria Lansford,

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Jen Townsend

Good Galleries Gone Bad - The Saga Continues...Time to Sue - from Victoria Lansford

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You! Prevent Delinquent Payments

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Victoria Lansford in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

Portrait of Victoria Lansford FROM THE PEN OF VICTORIA Lansford:
If this "Good Gallery Gone Bad" happens to you:

1.  Get your work out of there!  If they won't send it back, find someone in the area (a friend, a friend of a friend, etc.) who can pick it up for you.  Provide him/her with a letter signed by you, stating that she/he is acting as your agent and has the authority to remove your work and an inventory list of your work.  Let the person know the gallery's store hours then let the visit be a complete surprise.  Consignment means that the artist owns the work until it is sold.  You or your agent are merely removing what is yours.  If you can't find someone to pick up the work and can't go yourself, keep calling and emailing.  If they don't return it, it's probably a red flag that they have sold part or all of it and aren't paying you for it.

Dollars in hand 2.  Remember, It's your money!!!  Do not give up too easily.  Yes, pursuing money you are owed can be time-consuming and costly, so were the labor and materials that you put into the work for which you have not been paid.  Less ethical people tend to do what they know they can get away with, so if an owner owes you money and believes that you won't pursue getting paid, you could easily end up at the bottom of a long list of creditors and never see a dime.  

3.  Not just any type of lawyer will do.  You need one with experience in contract law.  Many lawyers will give a free initial phone consultation, so you can find out if they can help.  Get your paperwork together and give a concise account of what happened.  If legal help is too expensive, most states have "Lawyers for the Arts" type organizations, which will work pro-bono or on a sliding scale.
4.  Keep up the phone calls, letters, and emails! 
This is one time when being a nuisance isn't just OK; it's necessary. 

5.  Breathe!  You may be victimized, but you don't have to be a victim.  By not giving up, you are doing your part to help keep the system safe and honest for yourself and your community.  You may or may not eventually get paid, but you will know that you didn't go down without a fight and may find that your future dealings with consigning with galleries are a more business-like and professional experience.

6.  Consider creating a piece or series inspired by your experience.  I don't mean to make light of the situation by suggesting that you turn lemons into the proverbial lemonade.  Artists, who have work stolen sometimes have trouble with "artist's block" afterward.  Consciously working through your frustrations by doing what you love may have a cathartic effect.  Who knows?  If you sell the work, you could at least get paid for some of your frustration.

Eye of the Beholder Pin © 2009
Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets,
pin stem
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman


I particularly like Step 1. and Step 2.  Go ahead, take your work out of the gallery if they are not paying on time. Every story that I have ever heard about poor payment or no payment started with late payment. This is your warning sign, like a sore throat, you know trouble may be coming.

Chasing Payment Over the Telephone Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman has a sterling silver chasing hammer over telephone as a pun.
  Chasing Payment Over the Telephone
  Pin © 2010 Harriete Estel Berman
  Recycled tin cans, sterling rivets and
  chasing hammer, plastic ring.

Are you in business to loan money? Do you really think the situation will change if you continue to leave your work at the gallery? What motivation do these Good Galleries Gone Bad have to change? Absolutely none if the artists continue to avoid looking into a bad situation and take no action.

Stand up and be counted as an artist who is no longer is willing to act like a doormat and be stepped on.

Your professional behavior goes in all directions. Act like a professional in every aspect of your business. The Professional Guidelines offers 19 documents to assist and standardize professional practices in the arts and crafts community. Use this information to improve your artistic success. Let me know what topics would be helpful to you.


This post was updated on January 18, 2022.

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You! Preventing Delinquent Payments

Victoria Lansford is the guest author for ASK Harriete as she tells us a couple of ways to prevent delinquent payments from galleries. She creates one-of-a-kind wearable art in precious metals and unique stones and is the author/producer of the Metal Techniques of Bronze Age Masters: All Chained Up book and DVD series.

Previous posts in this series include:
Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Victoria Lansford,

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Jen Townsend

Good Galleries Gone Bad - The Saga Continues...Time to Sue - from Victoria Lansford

Photo of Victoria Lansford Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Victoria Lansford in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

Preventing delinquent payment situation:

1.  Always obtain a signed contract before sending any work to a gallery.  It's becoming more common for galleries to send contracts via email, which the artists print, sign, and return with their artwork.  Because these documents are created in Word or Pages rather than scanned in, they are often unsigned by the gallery owner or manager.  DO NOT send your work until you have obtained a signed copy of the contract.  If you have to file a legal claim, an unsigned contract won't help your case and can certainly make you appear less than professional and an easy target.

2.  Get references about a prospective gallery.  Discover other artists that they represent and contact them directly to ask about their experiences concerning timely payment, the condition of returned work, and the accessibility of the owner or manager.

Past Due Notice 3.  If checks are few and far between from a gallery, contact other artists that they represent and determine if it's because sales are slow or because the gallery is not paying.

4.  Keep in contact with the galleries that carry your work on a consistent basis.  It's easy to check in every month or so via email without seeming like a pest.  You can let them know of new work you are creating and find out what interest there has been in your work, both of which can be helpful under any circumstances. 

The Professional Guidelines offers an excellent Consignment Contract with a complete overview explaining every clause. This can be found on my website under the PROFESSIONAL GUIDELINES link or CLICK HERE. 


Here are the three Contracts currently available in the Professional Guidelines.




In the next post, tomorrow, Victoria will give us six steps to take if your Gallery has not paid you on time. Each step is simple, straightforward forward and relatively easy to do. With this poor economy, artists need to learn to be better advocates for themselves and each other in the arts and crafts community. If you have suggestions about how you have worked to prevent a poor payment problem, please share them as a comment. CLICK on the word COMMENT below this post.


This post was updated on January 18, 2022, to provide current links.

Good Galleries Gone Bad - The Saga Continues...Time to Sue - from Victoria Lansford

This is the third post in the series about Good Galleries Gone Bad by Victoria Lansford.
Let's get smart and business savvy and take these words of wisdom to heart, they're worth their weight in gold (even if you work in other materials).

In this post, Victoria describes her experience when she wasn't paid for her work and her next steps to handle this difficult situation. If you missed the beginning of the story, the first two posts were:
Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Victoria Lansford,

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You by Jen Townsend

Parallel Universe Woven Wire Bracelet by Victoria Lansford
 Parallel Universe
 Side Weave Mesh bracelet with a
 granulation clasp, sterling, fine silver,
 22K gold, dolomite.
 7" long x 1-1/2" wide
 Victoria Lansford   © 2001

Victoria Lansford creates one-of-a-kind wearable art in precious metals and unique stones.  She is also the author of the book, Metal Techniques of Bronze Age Masters: All Chained Up, and producer of the related DVD series. Future posts include tips on preventing delinquent payments, steps to take if your gallery is not paying on time, and more (including the opinion of Lansford's lawyer Chris Balch). 



Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Victoria Lansford, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

Ironically, soon after connecting with Jen and also with Zaruba & Zaruba’s former manager, Andrew called me with effusive apologies for not paying.  He claims to have an investor lined up and will pay me on May 21.  The date came and went without a check, and the phone message I left with his employee was not returned. It’s frustrating not being able to count on that money. To paraphrase Boris Bally’s earlier post on this issue, I’m an artist, not a bank.  I don’t lend money to other businesses.

Entwine Necklace by Victoria Lansford
  Russian Filigree and Roman Chain
  © 2001 Victoria Lansford
  Necklace:22K gold, sterling-platinum,
  fine silver, chrysocolla drusy
  Pendant portion 3" long,   16" chain

Even more painful than the loss of income is how I feel about the pieces that I had sent to Twist of My Wrist.  I consider them stolen and am listing them as such on my website.  While Andrew has dragged things out and made his cash flow problems mine, I know that my artwork sold.
Some appreciative, yet unsuspecting customer is enjoying my one-of-a-kind pieces for which the artist was never paid. Or my work could have been sold, stuck in some storage box somewhere, or melted down for the metal and the stones cut out.  The thought of all those hours of my life (that went into those pieces that are gone) haunts me and remains in the back of my head each time I work at my bench.  They were not merely cheap imports that I wholesale; my vision and my passion are bound up in them wherever they may have gone.


Victoria Lansford Star Dust Sleeve Cuff
  "Stardust on My Sleeve"
  Russian Filigree Hinged Cuff Bracelet
  22K Gold, Fine & Sterling Silver,
  Koroit Opals
  2-3/4” long x 2” wide x 1/2" high
  (Quotations around title indicate that
  it is taken from song lyrics)
  ©  Victoria Lansford  2001

Both Jen and I relied on having contracts to protect us.  From a legal standpoint, they do, but that doesn't mean that they don't require enforcement.  Since Andrew Zaruba's repeated promises of payments by specific dates have not been fulfilled, I have filed suit against him and Zaruba & Zaruba.  I'm in Georgia but will file in the gallery's state, Maryland, which may mean that I and/or my lawyer will have to go there if the suit goes to trial.  Suing Twist of My Wrist is trickier since the owners have disappeared, but I haven't entirely given up.  I keep the problem in perspective and will balance the amount of energy I put into it with doing what I love, creating more art.  Still, I have a responsibility to pursue these issues for myself, my family, who depend on me, and my community of artists. Stay tuned for more updates on ASK Harriete this case develops.

I asked Victoria to tell us lessons she has learned and how to prevent this situation from happening to any other artists and craftspersons.

Next week she is going to offer us practical steps to implement if a good gallery has gone bad.


This post was updated on January 18, 2022.

Good Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You, Part Two by Jen Townsend

This post is a continuation of Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You. In the first post, Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You - by Victoria Lansford, we heard a serious story of non-payment.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Jen Townsend, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.

FROM THE PEN OF JEN TOWNSEND (Courtesy of Victoria Lansford):
At first, we did very good business. 
I am very wary of consignment, but really connected with Amy, the [former] manager at Zaruba & Zaruba, and she inspired confidence in me to leave work with them.  We signed a pretty standard boilerplate contract with a “net 30 payment” clause in it.  I felt protected by the contract, received regular inventory statements and checks.  She was also very skilled at selling my work.   The store is in a terrific location, had high-quality work in it, a good sales team, and a lovely clientele. 

Problems started when Amy left the store and Andrew Zaruba was in charge.  The communication went downhill fast. I had about $20,000 (wholesale) of work in the store, so I decided to drop in and pull out my big gold pieces and leave the silver and a few smaller gold items.  When I arrived (unannounced) Andrew looked surprised and a little taken aback.  I discovered that he owed me $900.  He wrote me a check.  It cleared.  I chose to leave the silver and lower-priced work there.  Things did not improve.  In retrospect, I should have listened to my instincts and pulled out everything, but I really loved the store, and, frankly, the checks I used to receive from the gallery. 

Andrew placed custom orders with me in the early fall.  I called in October to talk about the Christmas season.  No callback.  Called again every week in November.  No callback.  Finally, Andrew answered the phone in early December.  He told me a couple of things had sold, but gave me a sob story about a new bookkeeper and being out of sorts in the business.  No check.  I didn’t send more work. 

In early January, I finally got in touch and was told that some more things had sold, but not much and he wasn’t sure what and that he’d get back to me.  A week later, I did receive an inventory statement, although there were penciled-in question marks all over it.  I called to inquire.  No callback.  At this point, I decided to “pop-in” with my tall and protective brother in tow.  Andrew looked freaked out this time and started talking very fast, saying he was “just about to call” and was “just figuring out what he owed” and was “just about to cut a check” and he thought it was “somewhere around $2,200”.

It turned out that he owed me $4,970! 
As I was pulling the work and tallying the costs, several customers came in and I saw Andrew pull in $2,200 (retail) in that half an hour.  I agreed to take the payment in two checks – one dated that day, and one post-dated for a month down the road.  The first check cleared without issue.  I also offered to call Andrew to make sure that the second one would clear.  He requested another week, but it still bounced.  He did not return my calls or my emails.

I recently returned home from teaching for two months at Penland and called Andrew, and he actually answered the phone and said he could pay me at the end of the week.  I don’t believe him.  I am also in the process of filing a complaint against him with the Better Business Bureau.  I became more frustrated when I connected with Victoria Lansford and heard that her story was almost identical to mine.  As makers, we care about our work, we go to great lengths to make objects of integrity and to put them into the world and find loving homes for them.  I don’t know any artist or metalsmith that has entered this field for the money – it’s always because we love it.  I love what I do.   I work very hard to run a profitable business.  While it is just business, it’s also personal!  This breach of trust feels awful and violating.  I hope that other artists can learn from this blog.  Listen to your instincts!  If you feel like there are red flags, there probably are.  Talk to other artists who have worked with galleries you’re considering.  If something changes dramatically in your communication or payment schedule, proceed with caution.  

I would like to thank Harriet Estel Berman and Victoria Lansford for opening this dialog and strengthening our community through communication.
Jen Townsend


Past Present Future April Flower Pin
Harriete Estel Berman © 2010
recycled tin cans, sterling silver,
Photo Credit: emiko oye

FROM ASK Harriete:
The next post will be from Victoria Lansford again who will tell us the rest of her account with Good Galleries Gone Bad.  Part Three will offer information we can apply to our own business relationships with galleries.

Stay tuned for the past, present, and future of this saga. Victoria is also going to share with us several warning signs, ways to "Prevent this type of Situation" and what to do "If this "Good Gallery Gone Bad" happens to you. 

We have a lot to learn from these unfortunate stories. The arts community needs to be more vocal and visible when it comes to poor payment. It is the only way to effect change.


This post was updated on January 18, 2022.

Good Galleries Gone Bad - Don't Let This Happen to You - by Victoria Lansford

Victoria Lansford is the guest author for a series on ASK Harriete as she shares her experiences about galleries that don't pay their artists. These posts include words of wisdom for what to watch out for and how to navigate the situation if it happens to you.  Lansford creates one-of-a-kind wearable art in precious metals and unique stones.  She is also the author/producer of the Metal Techniques of Bronze Age Masters: All Chained Up book and a DVD series.

Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Victoria Lansford, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is intended or implied.


Bracelet by Victoria Lansford
 From the series, Vertebracelets
 Vertebrate pattern bracelet with Russian
  filigree clasp
 Artist: Victoria Lansford
 Bracelet is shown at Twist of the Wrist

As the saying goes in the retail world, cash is king, but in the art world, consignment is the norm, especially for higher-priced work.  Consignment gives both artists and galleries the freedom to take risks and create meaningful work without the primary motivation being about what will sell.  I do all one-of-a-kind work and have consigned it with galleries for over 20 years with great success... at least until recently.  In 2009, I began new consignment relationships with four more galleries.  Two of them have been a great working relationship. 

The other two have never paid me for work sold nor returned my unsold work when I requested.  One of the galleries, Twist of My Wrist, in West Palm Beach, Florida is now out-of-business.  One of the owners, John Bandy, contacted me in early 2009 about carrying my bracelets.  In retrospect, the deal they were offering to get me on board was too good to be true, a higher than usual percentage to the artist and the tags and contact info left on the work.  I checked them out extensively online.  Part of what made me less suspicious was that one of the owners had a link on their site to a more personal site.  I knew of other galleries with similar links, so my gut feeling was that a scam business would not go to so much trouble.  I also had a contract, signed by the gallery owner and thought that was enough.

I received fairly regular email updates about the gallery.  No check meant no sales, or so I assumed.  When I discovered one-day last summer that the website had suddenly disappeared, I immediately contacted John and was told that he had been going through a difficult time, was in the process of returning the artists’ unsold work, and that he would send mine within two weeks.  Despite many emails from me and letters from my lawyer, that was the last I ever heard from John.  I’ve received no money nor any unsold work, and John and his business partner have vanished off the planet.

The other gallery in question, Zaruba & Zaruba, sold numerous pieces of mine, but the owner, Andrew Zaruba, has yet to pay me for any of them.  When I traded out work in time for the 2009 Christmas season, he sent back a bracelet for repair.  I was puzzled, since those types of chains usually don't come back to me, and the break could only have been caused by extensive wear and tear.  When I called and inquired, Andrew acted surprised that I had not been paid for it, but couldn’t provide me with any information on when it had sold, nor could he explain the whereabouts of two missing pieces on the inventory list.  He said that he thought they were still at the gallery and just hadn’t gotten packed, but if he didn’t find them soon, he would include payment for them along with the money for the bracelet.  I was mildly concerned but assumed he would pay on the 15th of the month.

I might be described as a hard-core skeptic, and am not at all easily fooled, yet my take on Andrew was that he was a busy, slightly disorganized business owner, trying to make it through tough economic times.  I believed his story, sent the new work in time for Christmas and waited for the check to show up.  It never has.  Calls from me and from my lawyer elicited a few more promises at first and then were ignored and avoided.

Skyler's letter010
  Victoria Lansford son Skyler's letter after
  asking for an explanation of the situation, pen and ink.

In early April a friend, who lives near Frederick, Maryland, went to the gallery unannounced and picked up my unsold work, of which there were only three pieces left.  Despite rough times, slow holiday seasons, and two blizzards, most of what I had sent had sold.  Andrew had the nerve to ask her if he could just hang onto the work a little longer for an upcoming neighborhood gallery walk.  When told no, he signed the copy of my inventory list that I had sent with my friend, stating that he would pay me by April 16th.  The date came and went with no check in my mailbox and my subsequent phone messages were left un-returned.

After connecting with another artist, Jen Townsend, who has had a fairly long relationship with Zaruba & Zaruba and who Andrew has more recently treated in much the same way, I found that Andrew owes money to a long list of artists, most of them women.  His lack of payments seems to have little to do with the economy since sales are apparently good.  So where is the money going?

Jen Townsend has been kind enough to include her experience with Zaruba & Zaruba as our next post tomorrow.
   Stay Tuned!!!!!!!!


This post was updated on January 18, 2022.

The Value of Your Work is NOT the Price of Your Work

After almost six weeks of posts about Pricing Your Work, there is still an important issue to discuss.  The VALUE of your work is not determined solely by the price of your work, or by the work that sells the best.  In other words, do not confuse your best-selling item with your best work.

Pure Pin by Harriete Estel Berman constructed from recycled tin cans.
  Pure Pin © 2008
  Recycled tin cans, sterling silver rivets,
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

Your best-selling item may be because of a modest price, appeal to a large market, great color combination, current fashion trend, or numerous other reasons irrelevant to artistic depth or quality.

Golden Girl Bracelets include Mrs. Fields, Jazzercise and Barbie; all three bracelets by Harriete Estel Berman constructed from recycled tin cans.
   Three Golden Girl Bracelets: Mrs. Fields,
   Jazzercise, and Barbie © 2009
   Recycled tin cans, sterling silver, brass,
   Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
   Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

Price, in my mind, is NOT a demarcation of value. As an artist and maker, developing a distinctive personal voice, signature style, or repertoire of technical skills is so much more important.

Your best-selling item rarely leads to better work.  It only places the pressures of the marketplace foremost in your thoughts. With the Internet, there is a huge rush to sell everything we make.  The numerous online markets drive everything to have a retail price attached. This could be a big mistake.

Golden Girl Fruit Crate functions as a jewelry display by Harriete Estel Berman constructed from recycled tin cans.
  Golden Girl Fruit Crate with 3 bracelets
  © 2009
 Recycled tin cans, wood, brass,
 sterling silver, handmade paper,
 Artist:Harriete Estel Berman
 Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

One of the readers of ASK Harriete recently commented how she used to keep her work in the studio and study it for a while. She found it helpful to live with her paintings in her studio to help her appraise the artistic value of the work. With time she could appraise its value more effectively.

Sari Grove said, "I had the luxury of hanging my works all around & I could look at them for a long time before I had to price them...The looking increased my sense of perceived self-worth so when I had to price I was very confident asking for a thousand dollars, even right at the beginning of my professional career."

Black and Gold Identity Necklace by Harriete Estel Berman constructed from recycled tin cans.
  Black and Gold Identity Necklace © 2006
  Recycled tin cans, Plexiglas, 10k. gold,
  electrical cord, polymer clay,
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
  Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

To really hit home,
let me say that just because no one buys your work doesn't mean it isn't any good. The history of art and craft media demonstrates hundreds of times over and over that work with no market when first created, is now highly valued. This has happened in all mediums.

Black and gold Identity Necklace by Harriete Estel Berman constructed from recycled tin cans.
  Detail of Black and Gold Identity Necklace
  Recycled tin cans, Plexiglas, 10k. gold,
  electrical cord, polymer clay,
  Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
© 2006
  Photo Credit: Philip Cohen

In recent years, there seems to be a frenzy of making lower-priced work, cheap and fast, anything that will sell in this terrible economy.  Yet I still believe that it is better to invest in quality, careful design, and thoughtful consideration.

Judith Pin fabricated as a present by Harriete Estel Berman constructed from recycled tin cans.
   Judith Pin made as a present
   Recycled tin cans, sterling silver,
   Artist: Harriete Estel Berman

Is it possible that your work may have greater value as a gift? How do you feel if you make something for a friend or relative and give your work away? Are you ever able to make exactly what you want with no compromise? Can you ever take your time to do the best job without the clock ticking? Why is it bad to have one job to generate income (or even a couple of jobs to earn our living), and then take time for our creative efforts, free of the demands of cheaper is better?

Can creme rise to the top, or is everything just bland in this "sell it now" homogenized environment?  I'm even wondering if there is any value in making work when it does not reflect the best we can be, do or make? What do you think?


P.S. Have you watched "Not Just Another Pricing Lecture" from the SNAG Professional Development Seminar. 

This post was updated on January 18, 2022, to provide current links.

Pricing Your Work - The Ultimate Variable in SELLING YOUR WORK has no numbers! What the Market Will Bear

This is the last post (at least for now) about variables in pricing your work.  In previous posts, we discussed how to calculate your expenses and a profitable price based on concrete facts. Find this information in the left-hand column on ASK Harriete. Look for the category titled: Pricing Your Work.

The last two posts discussed Reputation, and  Perceived Value/ Media Bias. This final post about pricing will discuss "What the Market Will Bear."

Multi-colored April Flower Brooch by Harriete Estel Berman
Multi-colored April Flower Brooch ©2010
recycled tin cans, sterling silver,
Artist: Harriete Estel Berman
Photo Credit: emiko oye

What the Market Will Bear is an old refrain but is interconnected to Perceived Value, Media Bias, and Reputation. If you are selling your work in a high-end, exclusive store where the clients are expecting to pay higher prices for prestige, exclusivity, superior service, etc, then this clientele will support a higher price. Yet the same items in a lower-end store would be perceived as overpriced or inflated due to customer expectations.

Many times I've heard artists and makers complain that their local small-town gallery or store will not support the higher prices they need to charge for their work.  That may be true, so perhaps you shouldn't be selling at that location. The other option is to work with local clients so they understand why your work costs so much. (A topic for another time so ASK Harriete.)

Tiffany is a familiar example of an established market. Tiffany the famous jewelry store, sells very expensive jewelry. They have developed a reputation that is so exclusive that the hallmark, the identity of the manufactured (not even handmade) jewelry, is marked on the exterior (instead of inside) as on the bracelets (below). People buy the exclusive brand identified with Tiffany's little blue box.
Tiffany bracelets with the Tiffany hallmark on the exterior.Every artist and maker regardless of their medium has something to learn here - the value of the maker's signature or hallmark in selling your work. This means signing all your work, every time, and placing your work in the appropriate marketplace. Establishing a reputation takes years. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Keep in mind that all work should be sold at the same price all over the United States. Artists and makers need to find a location, gallery, store, or online marketplace that sells work in the price range they need to charge and keep that same price all over the United States.  This is one of the strongest factors in supporting your prices.

The Q & A podcast during the Professional Development Seminar Houston SNAG Conference touched on these issues.

What do you think? Your comments are most appreciated...I will try to respond to all the pricing comments in one post soon.


This post was updated on January 18, 2022.
I hallmark all my work. You can see this on the back of this pin very clearly. Your hallmark or signature assures the collector that they bought your work, not an impostor, look-alike, or copy. Learn why I use a hallmark that looks like a domestic iron on my web site.April Flower by Harriete Estel Berman
April Flower by Harriete Estel Berman